What does Astana have in common with Colombo?

by Nathan Hamm on 1/9/2006 · 5 comments

Well, first and foremost, they are both capital cities of countries covered by the State Department’s South Asia Bureau.

And that means that we will need to look at Afghanistan in its regional context. When I was in Central Asia, I was very much struck that the countries of Kyrgyzstan, of Kazakhstan, even of Tajikistan, very much see Afghanistan as a part of the region that is Central Asia. One of the things that we did in the State Department was to move the Central Asian republics out of the European bureau, which really was an artifact of their having been states of the Soviet Union, and to move them into the bureau that is South Asia, which has Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. And so I think it represents what we’re trying to do, which is to think of this region as one that will need to be integrated, and that will be a very important goal for us.

That whole South Asia region I expect to be very high on my list of priorities. Enhancing the relationship with India will be extremely important. As you know, we believe the President will be visiting sometime this year, enhancing the relationship with India at the same time that we maintain a good relationship with Pakistan and help Pakistan in its efforts to fight extremism.

And as I said, moving up through Central Asia and Afghanistan, if you think about that region just a few years ago, prior to September 11th, it really was, as I think it was Zbigniew Brzezinski called it, an “arc of crisis.” It’s now, in many ways, an arc of opportunity, but we’re going to have to work very hard in South Asia and I expect that to be very important.

Rice gives a couple reasons for this decision. First, she argues that because Afghanistan is part of the South Asia Bureau and Afghanistan needs to be treated as part of Central Asia, the five Central Asian republics are being moved to South Asia. As an extension of that, she says that the South Asia and Central Asia regions should be more integrated. (That’s interesting because it almost implies an opposition to Eurasian integration.) The other reason offered is that Brzezinski viewed the two regions as a super-region of crisis.

I heard about this reshuffling a little over a month ago, and as far as I know, Rice’s mention of the change is the closest thing to an announcement there’s been. And from what I heard earlier, it was a desire to take some of the load off the Europe and Eurasia department (which is pretty darn huge) rather than helping out Afghanistan that really drove the decision. Rather silly if you ask me.

(Via neweurasia)

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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katy January 9, 2006 at 10:19 pm

What’ll happen to FLEX?

Nathan January 9, 2006 at 10:27 pm

Good question. I was wondering if there’d be any implications for the application of policy and programs.

Laurence January 10, 2006 at 5:57 am

Nathan, Thank you for posting this item. It is interesting in the context of the Indian-Uzbek military training you reported earlier…

Laurence January 10, 2006 at 6:01 am

BTW, I returned to the US from Tashkent via Dehli and Colombo (among other stops) and can report that the Indians are still not happy about Timur and Bobur and the Moghul conquests. Their view of the Uzbeks is sort of complicated by that, although equally by the Soviet-era Friendship of Nations policies and the USSR-Indian relations during the non-aligned period. They all sort of blanched when I joked that from an Uzbek perspective, based on Timur and Bobur, India was in a way historically a sort of “lower Uzbekistan…” They really didn’t like it in Delhi, either, when I said that Chor Minor and the Taj Majal looked kind of Uzbek…

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